After going to Norman and knocking off the Sooners the Baylor Bears have won 23 games in a row. This win will now go into the record books as the Bears are the holders of the Big 12’s longest win streak title with 23. The record was previously held by the 1996-97 Kansas Jayhawks. Baylor has also retained the number one spot for the fifth consecutive week which is the longest for any team this year. The Bears have a striking offense balanced with a great defense helping them stick with any team. There is little not to like about the Bears leading to them to be a Final Four team for many people. The only question that remains is whether Baylor is actually legit.
Baylor is one of the older teams in the league this year and their depth and veterans are shown with a calm and collected Baylor squad. As you watch the final 5 minutes of the game vs Oklahoma tonight you can see that this team simply doesn’t flinch. They just rode out the game and made plays when they had to. They didn’t force anything or turn the ball over which is a true sign of maturity for Scott Drew’s team. They are lead by junior guard Mark Vital, senior forward Freddie Gillespie, and sophomore guard Jared Butler. All three of these players have performed really well down the stretch for this team, whether its a steal for Vital or a 3 for Butler. These are obvious leaders on the team that contribute to the team’s success. Another player who helps add to this deep team is MaCio Teague who averages 14.4 PPG and a 40% field goal percentage. Currently, Teague is out with a wrist injury, which is only going to add to this lethal team once he gets healthy. The players on this team seem to mesh and play with energy every time they hit the court.
Coach Scott Drew is my current pick for Coach of the Year award this year. The job he has done with this team is absolutely ridiculous. Last year Baylor was a struggling nine seed who lost to Gonzaga in the second round. You are now looking at a potential one seed who bows to no one. The amount of work Coach Drew has put into this team has finally paid off as his team looks better than ever. The collected, tough mentality is now drilled into the players as Baylor has yet to lose since November.
Easy Schedule so far?
Baylor has been tested plenty as they have beat 6 ranked teams throughout the season. Which includes a win against the third-ranked team in the nation being the Jayhawks. In this game Baylor told the world that they are officially here to stay, with a dominating 67-55 win. Not to mention that this game was in the Phog which is one of the toughest places to win in college basketball. After this game, the Baylor hype train slowly started moving as the college basketball world started to take notice of this emerging team. Although the team was on a hot streak, they suffered a few close calls against Oklahoma and at Kansas State which the game could have gone either way. This team has been tested with the tough Big 12 schedule and still has to face more challenges in the future.
Rest of the Schedule
This weekend Baylor will face their biggest challenge of the year as they will have to take on the #3 Kansas Jayhawks. The biggest question is going to be whether the defense is able to keep playing as well as they are currently. They allow 58.4 PPG which is the 5th best in college basketball. When they played Kansas earlier in the season they were able to get stops and take advantage of turnovers which ultimately lead to the win. Those will be two very big emphases this week as they get prepared for this weekend. Baylor’s schedule isn’t just smooth sailing from there either, they still have to take on the Mountaineers and the Red Raiders which is no easy task. Each of those teams are very experienced and have the potential to beat anyone. Baylor can’t afford to look ahead to the tournament or they will fall into one of these traps
For right now, this team is playing terrifically holding teams and getting buckets on the offensive side. Do I think Baylor will lose a game or two down the stretch? Yes, this team needs a heat check before they can be legit contenders. Do I think this team is the number one seed in the tournament? It depends on who and if they lose to anyone. Do I think this team is a final four team? Absolutely, defense is on the rise in college basketball and if Baylor can keep it up they will have a long tournament run. The phrase Defense Wins Championships isn’t around for nothing.